The Food we eat gives energy to the body, but today’s world the same food is causing adverse effects in some individuals. In present era, many people suffer from food allergies. Gluten and lactose are major parts of diet which is allergic to some individuals. This growing problem of gluten and lactose intolerance is a major problem which can occur in any age. In a person suffering from either gluten allergy or lactose intolerance, it is generally advised to avoid all the food items containing gluten and lactose. No allergen, no allergy! However, in Ayurveda, we try to figure out why a person developed an allergy and how we can fix this person’s gut strength and mindfully and slowly re-introduce the so called allergens and observe the response from the body. There is a concept of ‘Ama’ or ‘Undigested residue’ which is caused due to derangement of Agni or digestive fire and it is considered as the causative factor for food allergies. When a person having low Agni takes untimely food or indulges in over eating or takes food which is heavy to digest frequently, it results in improper digestion of food leading to Ama and Allergy.
If all people who ate the same meal fall ill, it means there was something wrong with the food. But only if one individual fall ill then it probably means that that particular individual seems to have food allergy. The ‘antigen’ which is unfamiliar to the body causes allergy. This antigen can be considered as Ama in Ayurveda. Antibodies are substances that bind to the antigen and if our immune system is functioning well, then the antigen antibody complex will be removed from the body. When the food we consume is improperly digested it creates Ama or endotoxins which disturbs the digestive process, emotions, thought process, etc. The endotoxins should be removed from the body through Panchakarma, an Ayurveda detox, suitable diet and herbs. If the endotoxins are continuously formed in the body it compromises immunity permanently and leads to allergy. The hypersensitivity of the immune system or abnormal reactions to particular substances are known as allergies. Food allergens are foreign substances to the body which when coming in contact with the body causes the immune system to react. The stomach, skin, eyes, nose and lungs are the most common to react to allergies.
Although human beings have been eating gluten containing grains for thousands of years, our digestive system is made in such a way that it is perfectly capable of digesting gluten. Somehow, in the last few years, there is increased incidence of gluten allergy because of the hybrid wheat cultivating techniques to create a super high yielding crop which in turn has changed the quality of wheat. Modern wheat biology is different from the one that was been consumed for over centuries. This high gluten modern wheat is further processed to make different food products such as bread, pasta, etc. adding to the gluten load. Monotonous diet or indulgence in too much process food such as bread, biscuit, pastries, pizza, pasta leads to increased consumption of gluten than the body can digest. The same is with other food allergies too, the quality of every food product available in the market now-a-days is compromised because of the hybrid techniques for cultivating them, use of chemicals to kill weeds, bugs, diseases and the plant growth regulators, etc. This in turn changes the quality and property of food that the human body is designed to digest. Cows are fed with special feeds and injected with hormones to produce more milk which changes the property of milk and when our Agni is not strong it becomes difficult for digestion.
Sedentary lifestyle increases distress, climatic variations and untimely meals compromise digestion which in turn makes it even more difficult for digesting gluten or other food substances. Thus maintaining our Agni can prevent food allergies.
The different types of incompatible combinations –
Satmya is wholesome food which is compatible to the individual whereas Asatmya are unwholesome food which is incompatible to the individual. We may consider this incompatible food as allergy for the specific individual. When we consume food containing allergens, the immune system in our body responds to protect against allergens by producing secretions and inflammations in the affected tissue thereby helping to remove the toxic agent from the body. It turns out to be a health problem when unwanted or excessive allergic reaction occurs to substances that form a normal part of our environment and not dangerous to the body. Allergic manifestations of food allergy occurs as swelling, discomfort, breathlessness or itching. Cow’s milk, gluten, shellfish, eggs, soybean and seafood are the most common food that cause allergies.
Gluten is a protein complex found in several grains and food products that gives elasticity to the dough making it chewy or stretchy. Although it is a naturally existing substance it is particularly difficult to digest and requires a strong Agni to process it. If the Agni is weak, gluten passes through the intestine undigested and if taken in excess it can irritate the intestine causing to produce more secretions and inflammation ultimately affecting our digestion and absorption. In people having food allergies, the autoimmune response of their bodies damage intestine leading to inflammation, so the absorption of nutrients in the intestine is compromised leading to nutritional deficiencies and other symptoms.
According to Ayurveda a food intolerance means imbalance of Doshas and Agni. When the digestive fire is low and the person eats food that is heavy to digest or is allergic to his or her system, then the food is improperly digested and causes malabsorption. This improperly digested food is known as Ama or endotoxin
दुष्यत्यग्निः, स दुष्टोऽन्न न तत् पचति लघ्वपि| अपच्यमानं शुक्तत्वं यात्यन्न विषरूपताम् ।।४४||
When people indulge in poor dietary practices continuously this Ama enters into circulation leading to clogging in the channels of circulation causing various symptoms. Food allergies are mainly caused because of this Ama and compromised immunity. Various other factors such as improper diet and lifestyle, physical and mental strain, environmental changes, climatic variations, emotional problems such as anger, grief, fear and chronic diseases disrupt the immune system and leads to continued presence of Ama in the body leading to a condition of permanent immune alert called allergy.
The allergies are also influenced by the Prakruti or body constitution and the status of doshas in the body. Specific doshas respond to a particular allergen and hence the symptoms of food allergy will be specific to that particular dosha which is aggravated. Over the period of time, the increased dosha mixes with the Ama leading to Sama Dosha which then moves into the different channels of circulation, thereby reaching the different tissues of the body As the bodies defence mechanism keeps producing antibodies to fight against the toxins or allergens. Hence Allergic response is created even when there is a slightest exposure to specific allergen because the immune system is trying to get rid of the Ama and excess doshas.
आमेन तेन संपृक्ता दोष दूष्याश्च दूषिताः । साम इत्युपदिश्यन्ते ये च रोगाः तत् उद्भवाः ॥ || Ah.hr Su 13/27||
The allergic reactions may manifest immediately or lately. Ayurveda explains 3 types of manifestations based on the duration of manifestation after exposure to a food allergy. They are
As Vata body type people are prone to digestive irregularities, they are most affected with food intolerances. However people having Pitta and Kapha Prakriti can also develop food intolerances too if there is an imbalance in their Vata Dosha or Agni.
Symptoms of Vata Type: If excess Vata Dosha is associated with Ama, it produces Intestinal colic, bloating, abdominal discomfort and hard or unsatisfactory bowels are the most common symptoms of Vata type. The condition increases upon intake of raw vegetables and legumes in excess. There could also be respiratory distress in some people.
Symptoms of Pitta Type: Diarrhoea or frequent bowel movements, burning sensation in abdomen or anus are the common symptoms of Pitta type of allergies which occurs when the increased Pitta Dosha is associated with Ama. There could also be skin allergies like rashes, hives, urticaria.
Symptoms of Kapha Type: If aggravated Kapha is associated with Ama, it produces symptoms such as heaviness of the abdomen, dullness, mucus in stools, unformed and sticky stools and asthma / allergies.
Food allergies and intolerance are easier to prevent than treat. Following Ayurveda principles of dietetics by eating according to one’s Prakriti and status of Agni, adopting daily and seasonal regimen will help in prevention of food allergies. Also the property of food articles, their nutritional values, environmental conditions, season etc as well as one’s likes and dislikes are the other factors that make the food wholesome or suitable.
In people having food tolerance, firstly the culprit food should be identified with proper diagnosis. The identification of food allergen could be difficult but once it is identified the problems like food intolerance can be stopped. Then, specific diet plan should be followed while avoiding the causative factor for allergy. However different food having equivalent nourishing properties should be supplemented in diet in order to prevent malnutrition. Suitable Ayurveda medicines and therapies are administered and after a certain period of time the restricted foods can be included one by one slowly.
The treatment approach involves –
Nidana Parivarjana (Avoidance of Causative factor)
Firstly food causing allergy should be avoided. This avoidance of causative factor is the first line of treatment in Ayurveda. This may be temporary.
Agni Dipana – Pachana (Digestive & Appetizers to increase Agni)
पचेन्नामं वह्रिकृच्चदीपनं तद्यथामिसि: पचत्यामं न वहिं च कुर्याद्यत्तद्धि आचनम् शार्गधर पूर्वखंड ४/१
Enhancing the digestive fire is through the following ways -
Mainly Vamana or Therapeutic emesis, Virechana or Therapeutic Purgation and Basti or Medicated enema are suggested.
Vamana / Virechana - Following gentle oil massage using warm medicated oils such as Dashmool oil or Kshirabala oil or any other suitable oil based on the Prakriti and Dosha status, steam bath is done and medicated ghee such as Panchatiktaka ghrita is administered orally. This procedure is done for a period of 5 to 7 days until the signs of proper oleation are noticed after which Vamana or Therapeutic emesis or Virechana therapeutic purgation is administered based on the health needs. Oil massage and oral administration of medicated ghee helps to lubricate the body and soften the Ama and steam bath helps to detach the Ama lodged in the different sites and brings it to the alimentary canal ready to be eliminated from the body. This Ama is eliminated from the body through Vamana or Virechana. Virechana is preferred treatment in food intolerances as it helps in detoxification of the gastrointestinal system.
Matra Basti (Lukewarm oil in small quantity) and Niruha Basti (Herbal decoction enema) are administered in case of Vata imbalances. Piccha Basti is a special type of Basti prepared from medicated milk decoction and Mocha Ras drug which will help to prevent or reduce the frequent bowel movements and mucus in stools. This will help to improve digestion and assimilation thereby preventing malabsorption.
Panchakarma helps to detach the Ama from the Doshas and eliminate the Ama thereby bringing balance of the Doshas. It also helps to strengthen the immune system, promotes energy, healing and cellular rejuvenation.
Ahara – Vihara – Aushadhi (Diet, Lifestyle & Herbs)
Herbs and food articles that are digestive and carminative, which remove and treat Ama, improve Agni and is suitable to one’s Prakriti, age and season is suggested. Regular exercise also helps to improve Agni and remove Ama from the body.
Herbs used for treating food intolerance are listed below.
As stress is part of daily life, which can also trigger food intolerances as it affects Agni, regular Abhyanga and Shirodhara will be beneficial.
Yoga postures that stimulate the Agni like Paschimottasana (Seated forward bend), Padahasttasana (Standing forward bend), Pavanamuktasana (Wind relieving pose), Ardha Matsyendrasana (Fish pose), Balasana (Child’s pose) are beneficial.
Pathya or Wholesome food and lifestyle are those which are beneficial during the treatment of a person and that which will help to maintain and improve health, enhance the action of medicines.
Apathya or Unwholesome food and lifestyle are those which are non-conducive to treatment and restricted during the treatment period of a person and which has an adverse action to treatment.
|Food to Avoid||Food to Eat|
Wheat, barley, rye, oats, gluten containing products if the person has gluten allergy and any other allergic food such as cow’s milk and food items having lactose in case of lactose allergy.
Pastries, cakes, biscuits, ice cream, processed food, candy, processed meat
Rice, tapioca, potato, corn, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, chickpea, mung daal, pigeon pea, legumes, well cooked food.
Include spices such as curcuma, cumin, fennel, black pepper, ginger in diet.
|Lifestyle to Avoid||Lifestyle to Introduce|
Eating slowly, chewing the food well
Regular exercise or physical activity
Timely and proper sleep
Okasatmya (Slowly administering food articles the person was allergic to)
Now slowly the unsuitable food can be administered in small quantities and at large intervals to help the body adjust to the particular diet and gradually become acceptable to it. This is called desensitisation.
Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Ashwagandha (Withania somniferra), Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Haridra (Curcuma longa), Pippali (Piper longum) are some of the Rasayana herbs that help to optimize health because of their immunomodulator effects and thereby help in prevention and treatment of food allergies.
Ayurvedic understanding of food allergies and the approach to its treatment is logical, effective, safe and gives positive health benefits.
If you wish to consult Ayurveda, you may choose to contact one of our Ayurveda Practitioners Gurnam Saini or Pooja Saini in Melbourne. Both of our practitioners are Qualfied Ayurveda Doctors from India. You may contact us at "Pure Herbal Ayurved Clinic". People who can't reach us personally, may choose for online Ayurveda consultation.
PH- 0061 430 799 515
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Ayurveda stads for extensive and elaborate clinical examination to understand thenature of the disease